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Archive for November, 2009

Differences.

Things that are different about North Carolina (Durham in particular):

1. Everybody wears khakis and skirts to church. It’s just how I remember it being in Arkansas. These crazy southerners. Don’t worry though, Dave and I still represent with our denim.

2. There are roundabouts everywhere which on the one hand is fun for me as it reminds me of England, but on the other is not so fun because people here do NOT know what the rules are. It makes me so mad. What part of yield to the left do people not understand??

3. The roads and roadsigns are terribly confusing. It’s very frustrating for people who don’t know where they’re going half of the time.

3. Fall is beautiful. Or should I say, fall exists. Our backyard is now covered with a thick layer of red leaves. You can’t even see the grass, and they’re still falling.

4. People are nice. Very nice. Almost so nice that I start to get suspicious. This is most obvious at the grocery store. Yesterday a woman saw me putting a box of soup in my cart and she practically grabbed my hand and led me to another isle where there were coupons for a dollar off the soup. It was really nice of her but I must admit, I kept wondering if she got some kind of deal out of the referral! The last time I was shopping there I got trapped in a 15 minute conversation with a 60 year old woman about why the brand name of condensed milk cost so much more than the Kroger brand when the ingredients were exactly the same. She seemed to be appalled at this and I pretended to be equally so (as you do in a conversation like this with a stranger) so we both threw the Kroger brand can in our shopping carts in silent protest and shuffled away with our heads held high feeing like we’d beaten the system. I waited until she had disappeared around the corner and then swooped back to switch it for the Nestle brand because I just can’t settle when it comes to baking ingredients.

5. Apparently they take child care seriously here. Who knew. To do the job that I was doing back in Texas (a Lead preschool teacher) I would have to get licensed here. Obviously this is a much better system as there is a higher chance of people actually knowing what they are doing when caring for children for nine hours a day. But it kinda makes you wonder about Texas… and the quality of childcare workers and childcare centers. Because Lord knows there were some crazies where I used to work. The problem is that the world is in such desperate need of preschool teachers because nobody wants to do it. The center where I worked had such a high turnover rate that the interviews were a joke. Merely for the sake of formality. Thinking back now, my interview consisted of one question: “What is the first thing you should do with a class of children when you’ve transitioned from one place to another?” The answer, which I got right, is count the children. However, I can say with confidence that if I had said something like “make each kid punch another one as hard as they can”, it would have been morphed into the correct answer by the interviewer. “So what you’re saying is you would count the number of punches and figure out how many kids there are?”. “Exactly!”.

All that to say, we are liking it here very much but it is funny when we encounter these differences. Just thought I’d share what I’ve been experiencing in this part of the Old South.

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Memories and muffins.

Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of my granddad’s passing. I thought about my mum a lot as I know she was missing her mum and sisters back in England. I also thought about all of the happy memories I have from the ten years that I knew Nic-nic.

He was such a special man, and he spoiled his grandkids like there was no tomorrow. I always looked forward to our trips to the north of England to see him and Gran. We lived less than two hours from them but that was a huge journey back then. They lived on a farm in an old farm-house (where my mum grew up). I have vivid memories of playing outside on go-carts, or frolicking in the fields for hours with all of my cousins and running in from the cold wind with rosy cheeks to seek the warmth of the crackling fire. It seemed like Nic-nic always had a grandchild in his lap laughing their heads of as he pulled his fake teeth out and put them back in again. I think the real reason we loved going there so much was that we were given more candy in the week we spent there, than we were for the rest of the year. Nic-nic was always awake first in the mornings before going to work on the farm. Andrew, Jess, and I would arise as early as possible and sneak downstairs before our parents awoke in eager expectation of what we would be given for ‘breakfast’. “Do you want eggs this morning?” Nic-nic would tease. “Cadbury’s cream eggs???” We were in heaven. But these treats were always accompanied with the warning “Don’t tell your Gran or you’ll have me shot!!!”.

Needless to say, we all miss him. I wish he could have seen all that his family has accomplished and the love that was born out of his love for Gran. Even though he’s been gone for a long time now, the memories I have are as fresh as they were 13 years ago. Because I was a child for the entirety of my relationship with him, these memories are innocent, naive, and almost magical. They are unadulterated by the complicated and harsh reality that comes with adulthood. And I like it that way. In my mind he was a saint. He was perfect. He was Nic-nic.

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On another note altogether, I thought I would do a recipe post. I baked these pumpkin apple streusel muffins two days ago and they are delicious! So I thought I’d share.

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Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apple

For the streusel 

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons butter

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 18 muffin cups or use paper liners.

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2. In a large bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt.

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3. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, pumpkin and oil.

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4. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stirring just to moisten.

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5. Take the cut up apples and fold them in to the mixture.

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6. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

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Now for my favorite part! The streusel (which should be a food group all of its own in my opinion):

7. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

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8. Sprinkle topping evenly over muffin batter.

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9. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

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10. As soon as they have cooled, take them to the neighbors, or throw them in the freezer. Otherwise you will want to eat them all, they’re highly dangerous ; )

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If it ain’t ‘The Wire’…

I have become a huge fan of television over the last few years. The Wire, Deadwood, The Tudors, Big Love, Rome, The West Wing. Watching these shows (among others) have been informative, fulfilling, and enlightening experiences that I am not afraid to say have enhanced my moral, philosophical, and theological sensibilities. That said, there is one show that I have not seen that I hope will be of similar experience to the aforementioned…

I have finally given in to years of resounding endorsements of Battle Star Galactica. I confess that for some reason the show has never seemed appealing to me–the fact that it aired on the Sci-fi network is a turn-off in itself–and that I have been intentionally avoiding the show over the last few years. However, I am leaving all of these prejudices behind and have decided to give it a shot. Tonight I plan on finishing the initial mini-series, and over the Christmas break to plow through the four (right?) seasons.

I am really hoping for a good experience, as the bar has been set very high. If any of you out there (you know who you are) have any hermeneutical tips for viewing the show, I’m all ears.

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Halloween with Tchaikovsky

Life here seems to be moving very rapidly. The days go by so quickly. Today marks the beginning of our fourth month here in North Carolina, and we are feeling more and more at home every day. It’s nice to reach the point where the things and people around us no longer feel so unfamiliar and different. Things are becoming usual and somewhat homey as we settle here, and I am glad.

We love that the grass and the trees (that haven’t turned yet) are so lush and green here. Nature’s colors hold a whole new meaning in a place where the land isn’t so scorched and brown. But, with that luxury comes rain, and lots of it. It has rained more days than it hasn’t since we’ve been here. We are slowly but surely getting used to it. The leaves continue to fall constantly and I find myself wondering how there are any left to fall. But there seems to be a perpetual supply. As the days get cooler the colors around us become rich with warmth. The reds have slowly darkened into crimson, and the oranges blaze within a fire of golden yellow. God is beautiful.

Tchaikovsky We spent last night in Greensboro listening to their symphony orchestra play Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, among other pieces. This particular piece of music is one of Dave’s favorites and was somewhat life changing for him. It means alot to me also, as Dave wrote out the second movement and gave it to me for valentine’s day during our dating years. It really is so beautiful and powerful. I still have it ringing in my ears today.

Dave describes it as: “The first “classical” piece of music that ever grabbed my full attention. After hearing the piece for the first time in an open-to-the-public Houston Symphony rehearsal, I acquired every Tchaikovksy piece I could get my hands on. The 4th Symphony is still my favorite of the great Russian composer. The massive trumpet theme throughout, the overflowing graciousness and endearment of the second movement, the novelty and lightness of the pizzicato ostinato in the third movement, the volatile and explosive finale interlaced with the flowing and expressive motifs; all of this helped clear away any repellent to symphonic music that I had developed over the years, and I have not looked back since.” (Taken from his blog).

It was a very enjoyable evening because we shared a delicious meal beforehand with one of Dave’s classmates and his partner in their beautiful home. They are on the Board of Directors and were hosting the conductor and his wife in their home also. So we had dinner with Dmitry Sitkovetsky‘s wife (who is living in London) before the concert. We got to go backstage and meet him after the performance, and to top it all of we even got a photo with him : ) Bryan (our friend from the divinity school) came with us also.

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On a funny note, we went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things yesterday, and completly forgot that it was halloween. We saw a man dressed in all camo with rambo-style bullets hanging around his neck and I freaked out a little. Then a woman dressed as a witch with a Kroger name tag approached us and asked if we needed any help and it all came flooding back. What a funny holiday. Hope you all had a great one!

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